Transcript of Music aural and musicology papers

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Music aural and musicology podcast (29:05).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team from secondary learners educational standards directorate of the New south Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations People hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Alex – Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name is Alex Manton and I am a creative arts curriculum officer for the New South Wales Department of Education. The area of discussion today is based on how best to support our stage six students, particularly our HSC students in musicology and aural. Today we'll be exploring how two highly experienced music teachers for stage six music one and music two prepare their students for the HSC aural and musicology paper. Our first music teacher is Jess Van Ree, who was a former teacher Liverpool Girls High School in South Sydney. Jess has been teaching music for 16 years in both the public and private sectors. She's taught in a variety of school demographics and she's passionate about music classroom and providing a music education that is accessible to all students. Our second music teacher today is Patrick Wong from James Ruse Agricultural School, who has been teaching at the school since 2006. Patrick studied music education at Sydney University and holds a bachelor of music honours in piano performance. He is particularly passionate about creating performance opportunities for H. P. G. E. students. Welcome Jess and Patrick.

Firstly, can you share with us a little bit about your school and the students that choose to do music for their HSC? We might start with you Jess.

Jess – I guess over the years it's been a number of different students that have chosen music for the HSC, but I think every school has a variety. You always have that student that's done AMEB lessons since they were tiny. And then the ones that have just joined your music class because they know Youtube and can tinker on a little bit of all the different instruments. And then you have the ones that only do classroom music but might have a music lessons. So, I've had a little bit of all those types of students in my class. So a little bit of everyone.

Alex – And how about you Patrick?

Patrick – Well, my school is academically selective where I'm teaching. However, our students do come from a diverse range of backgrounds with also varying levels of music education. We've got students that have come with very little background in primary music education and then students that come and have completed performance to a high grade, a high standard and a very experienced themselves as a musician. So, for me, it's about differentiating the curriculum to try to suit all levels and abilities. The students that particularly choose our elective and stage six courses tend to be capable and experienced musicians. They have studied music for a long time and they enjoy it and they're passionate about learning music. So, I'm really grateful for that opportunity and it's about extending and challenging our students who do pick the Stage six HSC Courses. We do accelerate. So, students complete a stage five in the 100 hours. And then they start preliminary music in year 10 and they complete the HSC music in year 11. Then those who are willing and wanting to do extension, complete that separately just on its own in year 12.

Alex – That's really interesting, Patrick. So, do the majority of your students do, they're HSC in year 1? How do you manage that in the classroom? Like do you have some students that don't and do it traditionally over the two years?

Patrick – We used to but not anymore. We find accelerating one year ahead and staggering the courses, because most of our students that do tend to do music two are experienced performers and they have a background in training in music. So, we find that it suits them, especially in the school like ours which caters towards the more the high achieving end of the spectrum.

Alex – Fantastic! So, Jess, in music one, how do you teach the skills required to be able to tackle the music one paper successfully in the exam? Do you have any teaching strategies?

Jess – It depends on the kids doesn't it? You know? And it also depends some days you have kids in your classroom who just want to learn and other days you have kids who are really good learners that don't want to learn. It just depends. So, I think the key to doing well in the HSC aural paper is consistency and practicing listening activities naturally. You know I think it's about actively engaging students in the learning. So, they come to the classroom and they always said “Miss are we're doing prac today?” and I’m like “we're doing music today” because music needs to be about prac and theoretical course components combined and integrated. And so, if you can start to bridge that gap right from the very beginning then you see change in the classroom. And so that's my biggest tip to try to integrate it. Now that doesn't always work, but we can try and it's not something that changes overnight. It's like a cultural change across the school that needs to happen. For some students I think it's about not being afraid of writing because there might be really good musos who play epic electric guitar solos, but when it comes to picking up a pen, they're afraid of doing it and so therefore don't for that fear of failure. So, it's overcoming that bridge. And I think one of the biggest things is about seeing that those 30 marks in the aural paper are vital to success in the HSC exam, overall, that it's not just about the other four components that you're choosing, that is really important too. And in my experience, the students that have done well in that, have done well overall with the other things combined. So those are the things that I think are super important.

Alex – How do you integrate practical activities and literacy? How do you do it? And what do you do about those students who are afraid to put pen to paper? How do you get them to do that?

Jess – starts small. Hopefully you've started this in stage four and stage five so by the time they've come to stage six they know what your teaching style is and your way of doing it. Which was the whole point of this pilot program that I did with the Ukulele in music literacy. Just that you mentioned at the start, it was about active engagement in music learning with literacy included. So now in terms of just stage 6 it's starting small, so something as simple as doing a regular practice lesson and then stopping and talking about structure, stopping and talking about texture and then drawing up on the whiteboard or smart board whatever you have, drawing that up, so it's a visual so people can see, grab your phones out, take a picture and put this in your notes. And so, the kids haven't actually picked up a pen in any way yet. And so, what happens is naturally the terminology starts to flow out of what they're playing. And then we pick up pens and papers.

Alex – And how do you go from that list of basic observations to then creating more complex musical observations and a more thorough response in the paper. What's the next step?

Jess – So I use a sentence which is called my epically amazing way of answering the paper.

Alex – I love to get it Jess.

Jess – Did you get it right? So, a lot of staff across the state uses this. And my sentence is: in section, the instrument, plays whatever the concept is. And I make them write that for every single point. So, we're writing in point form from the very start. First, we're identifying the structure. We draw a structure table at the top, and then we write this sentence for every single point. And when I first started out in year 11, I mark it wrong if they don't write in that format. So, I'm structuring and scaffolding my responses right from the very beginning, and then what happens over time, they start to understand the concepts more and identifying features in the aural excerpts. And then that in section the instrument plays that little detail there becomes more explicit, more specific and more detailed. So, we're not saying in the introduction, the saxophone plays the melody, that's where we started. Now, we're saying in the introduction the saxophone plays the melody, it's playing and then we are expanding upon that after that.

Alex – That's a fantastic literacy tool. I think that teachers are really going to appreciate hearing that.

Jess – Yeah. And you know what? You could even use that on stage four or five, like build it from then.

Alex – Yeah, that's great. How about you, Patrick? How do you teach the skills required to be able to tackle the music two paper successfully? I mean, we know the music two paper is very diverse in the way that it's presented. You've got melodic dictation, you have an extended response, you've got the short answer questions. Would you like to break it down a little bit and we can talk about each component briefly?

Patrick – I’ll do my best. And personally, I agree with everything that both of you just said. I think an integrated approach in the classroom is the best. I tend not to have separate composition and performance lessons unless I really need to get something done. So, it's usually students will play a piece and we will discuss to some analysis all within one lesson. I think that's the best. With regards to the paper, I think the markers are looking for good answers. They're not looking for perfect answers. So, what I would do is to get the students to mind map and organise their ideas even if it's a brainstorm, if it could be a shopping list for what they want, or how to address the question. I use a couple of approaches to answering different questions. If it's a short answer and it's asking about a specific concept and I get the students to think about what specific feature of the concept they want to write about and then apply it to the music that is being played or the score that is being put in front of them. So, it's more like a they make a claim about what they want to say with regards to what concepts supported with analysis and then make the link. So, it's more like a claim support link. analogy that I used with them. I actually got this from the Harvard Project zero on thinking routines. At school, two years ago, we started a whole staff initiative and they asked us teachers to come on to the pilots of the project. And so, I signed up and I think these strategies used by teachers all over the world, not just myself. I found this really helped to scaffold the students’ thinking in regards answering questions with the paper. So that technique I just used is called claims support questions.

Alex – Great. And is that how you also approach the question four, the extended response? Is that a little bit different?

Patrick – It's a little bit different because it's 10 marks. So, I do something similar to Jess, but I use an anagram so I use HITMODE. So, it's similar. It's similar to just structuring your answers. So, each word stands for something. So, the H would stand for you highlight the keywords in the question. The I would be how you would like to interpret the question, whether it is a specific conceptual question or general question, the T stands for your topic sentence. So, they've always got to have a topic sentence to address the essay question for me at the beginning. The M would be your musical mind map. So how are you going to answer and structure those 10 marks? I think structure is really important for a 10 mark essay question. I usually get the students to have 3 to 4 good specific points of what they want to answer. If it's 2 concepts say about pitch and rhythm, I would say please have two specific points about pitch and two specific points about rhythm. If it's a general one, then I asked the students to think about what are their most important concepts they want to answer for what a question for. And so that that represents M and then the O stands for organization of your ideas. I usually ask the students to rank their responses. If it's for four points they want to write or three points, I ask the students to write the most important points first and then the second and the third. So it's about organizing your answers. The D stands for musical detail. So that comes in the analysis and then finally the E would be your ending. So what links can you make just to finish your answer the question for. So, I found by just having that system, if they have a mind blank then they're just going to write HITMODE on the side of your page, and just make sure you ticked off everything. And I found between the trials and a lot of practice in the HSC, I found with the rap data in myself last year, we managed to get most of them into the A box into the nine or 10 out of 10, which I was pleased about.

Alex – That's great. Patrick. And how do you go about them selecting excerpts to discuss in question four?

Patrick – Well, I try with the works to have a variety of genres. So I would usually teach one chamber work, one orchestral work, a few solo works. I find shorter pieces a lot more effective because then you're not writing across 30 minutes of the symphony. So, as I become more experienced, I've tried to choose more accessible shorter pieces. And what I found is helpful in extending the breadth of those students repertoire is to have a comparative pieces, whether it's a similar genre or similar start for them to write a comparative essay on, as you know, the last couple of years that there has, there has been a move towards the comparative type of essay, rather than discuss this in the two pieces set the study or whatever. I find that works well. So usually I would do 1 for the mandatory topic music of last 25 years and then compare it with maybe a similar style or similar genre, similar instrumentation with another period of time. So, for example, when we did Lior's Compassion song cycle I compared it with the Rachmaninoff Vocalise. It's both being orchestral songs and ones, you know, Hebrew and Jewish and the other one is Russian lieder, basically. And I found students were able to make links so then we practice the creative and we practiced a comparative essay on it. And then I found that really helped.

Alex – That's a great idea, Patrick, I really like that idea of the comparative analysis.

Patrick – It doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's always informed by something or other. I found that was a really good way to teach across topics concurrently. And it just shows that music doesn't exist on its own. There's always links whether it's contextual or musical.

Alex – What are some of the creative ways that you approach revision of the concepts of music to optimize learning and engagement for your students at this critical point in the HSC course? So they're heading towards term two, they really start to do some past papers towards the end of this term. So how do you how do you revise the concepts when they've been doing them for so long? What do you do Jess?

Jess – Again, it really depends on the type of learners that you have. I think some of the more academic students are not interested in playing games and doing revision activities. They just really want to practice the past papers and hand them in and get feedback and look at the market criteria, match it to it, that kind of thing. So, I tend to mix it up depending on the types of learners that I have in my class at the time. So, some of them are high flyers who are getting, you know, six out of six for each question one or eight out of eight. So, when the top A box across, I find that those students really just want to practice past papers and keep handing them in. And I find that those students, they're writing style is solid, their terminology is really accurate, they're writing well, they're identifying well, so that's the best method for them. For the other students that are either on the lower end or the middle end of the class, they need a lot more variety. So, I try to use a little bit of both types. Sometimes the more academic learners like to do a bit more game orientation in the classroom just because they want to break, which is good. So, I like to do things like rainbow editing, which is like what you were just talking about Alex, where you’re looking for something specific, you're not just marking the whole response, you're looking for something specific. So that's a really good one to do, things like mini whiteboards and textures and just playing over and over different audio examples. And they have to identify the melodic instrumental, identify the harmonic instrumental that features in the music, or identifying instrumentation, so which woodwind instrument is from the woodwind family, just to be more accurate in the classifications. That's a good one.

Things like post it notes or little cards where you're only writing one point per card. So, some students get a little bit waffly in their sentences. And so, I find going back to that main sentence with the four Ws or three Ws, however you scaffold it, but only writing one point and then we're putting those cards altogether. So sometimes we do it in a time challenge. So, if your card goes up on the table at the front first and someone else writes the same point as you, then your card gets bumped, like you have to only have one card that says that point. So, we're identifying all different features in the piece about pitch, but not everyone can write about the saxophone in the introduction. It has to be other things that are happening and that just bulks out the answer a bit more than a collection. That’s as a class.

I like to do a lot of quick quizzes. So, google forms or even key notes that we're doing in the class together. We're just practicing the terminology. Which concept does this belong to particularly for tone colour finding words, descriptive words that describe the types of music. So those ones are good. Just so you're not getting those really low-level answers of it sounds green. No, it doesn't sound green and it doesn't sound like you're on a beach. No that's how you feel, but you know. So moving beyond some of those things as well obviously just practice papers. I've done crazy things in the past with Playdough and 3D Diagramming of texture you know but it depends on the learners and was going to interest them. I think it's about consistency. You just have to do it right from the beginning of that HSC course in prelim. If you haven't had them prior but ideally in stage four and five you'd be doing it too. From that very first day in prelim, we're starting with the concepts and we are just building and building and building all the time we're practicing. I like to focus mostly on the six concepts at the beginning of prelim and then add in tension, variety, interest and balance as more higher levels of thinking skills a little bit later on. So, we've consolidated that first and I found that to be very successful and helpful. I just want feedback. So whatever way you can get that to happen quickly and efficiently and time efficiently for you as the marker is the best way.

Alex – I love all of your creative ideas for music one concepts. That's fantastic. I might steal some of them myself.

Jess – Some of them actually come from literacy projects at primary school literacy projects and then just adapted.

Alex – So yeah, that's great for engagement really. I do a similar thing called concept stations. So, we'll listen to an excerpt and I'll get a big A3 piece of paper for each concept and lay them out around the room on tables and every student finds a concept station, they get one listening and they have to write down their ideas and then they all rotate. But again, they're not allowed to write the same thing as anyone else. They have to add to that point or come up with a new point. And my students loved that because if they weren't really comfortable with the concept, it kind of didn't matter whether they got it right at that moment, they just moved on to the next one, but they, as a class, really came up with everything that was in the excerpt by the end of it and then we put that into an online form and shared it with everyone. So, they all had a copy and it was like a full analysis of every concept.

Jess – I think ultimately it's about building confidence in writing, so it's not on music theory, it's about, Oh yeah, I know something about pitch or I know something about duration, I could add to that and the more that happens, the more confident they become in it and then they start to do it of their own accord and eventually they're writing a full page.

Alex – That's right, that's right. How about you, Patrick, how do you revise with your students?

Patrick – I've started doing something similar with flash cards, and I have them in a hexagonal shape so they actually can piece them together. You know, kind of like a bee hive, so each part of the concept that links to something else has to connect with that particular work. And because I find our students are super competitive, they all want to win. So, they've all got to come up with connections and once they make that link between the concept and that feature of the concept. So, for example, say a rhythm and ostinato, they've got to back it up with an example from the score, from the music, which then I would get the class to decide whether it's valid or not. And if it gets voted that they don't get that point.

Alex – That sounds fun, Patrick.

Patrick – That's a good little game to play people. People um vision of any pieces I find. And yeah, it really engages them to connect with the music and to challenge themselves and each other. Because I find our students very much like to be spoon fed, just give us the answer and will regurgitate it back to you. But gone are those days where you do that. It's more about teaching them how to think critically to answer, respond to different questions and to make up their own conclusions about the music.

Alex – And so lastly, do you have any additional top tips for teachers to share with their students of how to achieve that A box criteria in the aural and musicology responses? Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Jess – I think it's just about promoting being specific in what you're writing. Does this point actually answer the question and is it in detail? If the answer is no, then you don't get a point for it. And I think it's going back to that every single time. So, anything that's generalist is going to bump you down those boxes and put your right into that C box category, because it's only sometimes reflecting what the marking criteria is asking. So yeah, I think it's about being specific and it's about being factual.

Patrick – I think listen widely as possible but analyse selectively. From what I've seen lately, the papers tend to have more generalist questions with concepts so it might be discuss or describe these concepts, but they're not looking for generalist answers. They're looking for specific answers. So I think teaching the students to address specific parts of the concept is really important and then always backing it up with the music. I'm finding our students are very good at talking about the music and they're talking around the music. But a lot of them frankly don't talk in the music itself or of the music itself. And sometimes it's just a matter of telling them, you know, the answer is always in the score. Just look at the score or look and listen to the recording. You always find it there if you search for it and to not go on rants or waffles that don't address the question. That's really important. And always support your analysis with an example or quote from the score. And that's what will get you the marks. They're looking for good answers. Not perfect answers.

Alex – That's a great point, Patrick. And it's interesting. I always get excited about the next HSC paper that comes out and what the questions are going to be, because there have been changes in both papers over recent years. Like for example, in the music one, I was having a look at the past papers and there hasn't been a direct comparative analysis for over five years, which is interesting yet there's been some challenging questions in relation to technology, you know, how does technology affect this particular concept, which is great that students are being challenged to think a little bit differently. And Patrick, you mentioned earlier about how the question four has changed a little bit as well. So, it'll be interesting to see what this year holds.

Patrick – I think that question four is good in that it would separate because it's a comparative question. It does differentiate them from how much they know to what depth they know. I think there's been a push towards more depth of the answer than breadth of answers. So, they want to go deep so study less works. But I'd go deeper into each work that you study. That is the feeling I'm getting from just the way the courses has been taught and just the general push in music, not only music education by the education overall. And just teaching the students that have the skills, after all those skills and analyse selectively and to write about specifics rather than as you want As you both said this general answers which would only get you into the C box.

Alex – Well jess and Patrick, thank you so much for joining me today and talking about our HSC music students and how best to support them in musicology and aural. You've shared some really great ideas that I'm sure teachers will take on board and implement in their own classroom. So thanks again.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team of secondary learners, educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.

Get involved in the conversation by joining our statewide staff room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts curriculum advisor, Cathryn Horvat at The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.


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